Valletta lift 100 Anniversary Cup Published on: 18-01-2018

1910 was an important year in the history of Maltese football because it marked the start of the Maltese football league.

A committee under the name of the Malta Football Association was formed at the University and the competition was established between five teams. These were, Floriana FC, Sliema Wanderers, St Joseph’s United of Msida, the University Football Team and the Boys Empire League.

The matches were all played at the Lyceum Ground at Marsa. This was an open ground and therefore no admission could be charged.

More important, goalposts and nets were not provided and every team had to bring its own. Holes were left in the ground for the poles and instead of a crossbar; a length of ribbon was stretched from one pole to the other. This was a source of many arguments.

As luck would have it, Floriana and Sliema Wanderers were drawn to open the competition on February 20, 1910.

A crowd of over 5,000 spectators was reported to have attended. The game was not completed because Sliema walked out of the ground after a disputed goal and the game had to be replayed later in the competition.

For the record, Floriana won the first-ever Maltese football championship but that of course, is another story.

In 2009-10, the MFA was celebrating the 100 years from the first league championship. Therefore, to mark the occasion the association held a one-off cup competition between all league clubs.

Floriana, winners of the first ever league championship, did not hide their ambitions of winning the coveted trophy but on their way, they were destined to meet their eternal rivals Valletta.

The Citizens, like the other Premier League clubs, entered the competition in the third round against Gozo FC. Played on December 4, 2009 the game was a no-contest with Valletta cruising to a 9-0 win.

In the next round, Valletta met the First Division leaders, Vittoriosa Stars. The Stars were far more difficult opponents than the Gozitans but the Citizens still cleared this obstacle by three goals to nil. Star of the game was Ian Zammit who celebrated his 23rd birthday with a hat-trick.

The serious business however, started on February 9, 2010 when Valletta met Hibernians in the quarter-finals. The Paolites gave Valletta a good fight but the Citizens hardened their hearts and made their superiority tell.

A quarter of an hour into the second period, Roderick Briffa opened the score, forcing Hibernians to chase the tie.

Hibs tried hard to draw level but eight minutes later they were given the coup de grace by Kevin Sammut.

So, Valletta marched on to meet Tarxien Rainbows in the semi-finals.

In the other semi-final, Floriana had to strain every muscle to beat Mosta 3-1. This victory opened the way for a dream final against Valletta. The Citizens rose to the challenge and battled past Tarxien to set up a showdown against their old rivals. The game with Tarxien ended 1-1 and had to go to extra time when Valletta finally broke their opponents’ resistance with two goals from Michael Mifsud and Priso. And so, we come to the final and what a match it was. This game took us back ten years when Valletta fought back from a goal disadvantage to beat the Greens 3-1 and add the coveted Centenary Cup to their array of trophies.

In 2010, the Citizens repeated the feat when they defeated Floriana with the same scoreline in the Anniversary Cup final. It was a tetchy and highly-volatile match which in my opinion was won for Valletta by the genius of Michael Mifsud.

The Malta strike chose this game to give one of the greatest performances of his career. However, Valletta’s victory was not as easy as the score may suggest. The Greens put up a great fight to give their more rated opponents a good run for their money.

Mifsud gave Valletta a two-goal lead by the 47th minute but with three minutes left for the end of the game, Pablo Doffo pulled a goal back for Floriana. Panic crept in the Whites’ rearguard but right on the stroke of time Mifsud doused Floriana’s ardour with his third goal.

When referee, Chris Lautier sounded the final whistle the National Stadium nearly split its seams as the thousands of City fans broke into a delirium of wild celebrations. 

Shadows from the Past - Carmel Baldacchino